Political parties uncomfortable with polling stations opening early
A number of political parties feel uncomfortable with the polling stations for the parliamentary elections opening two days earlier this year, worried that voters can be influence on those days by debates and polls, BNR reports after speaking with the parties participating in this year's elections.
Election day is on March 17. Though polling stations will also be open on March 15 and 16, so that people vulnerable to the coronavirus have more time and space to cast their vote. But on those days, opinion polls and election debates will also be held.
"We find it very uncomfortable," a spokesperson for the SGP said to the broadcaster. "It fits well with this election year, when everything is a bit uncomfortable." Most of the other parties agree with that sentiment, though none of them want to ban polls and debates on those days. "It is free news gathering, at best we can kindly ask if the media wants to be a bit careful those days," one person involved said.
There are concerns that an image can emerge that a certain party is doing unexpectedly well, which can have an effect on doubting voters, a source in The Hague said to the broadcaster. A number of candidates are also worried that something like that can prompt a discussion afterwards on whether the elections were fair, like what happened in the United States.
Peter Kanne of I&O Research thinks the discomfort isn't justified. According to him, if you want to worry about voters being influenced while voting is happening, you have to worry about the 10 days before the election, not only the two extra days that the polling stations are open. "The over-70s can vote from 3 March and they must have their letter in the mail before 12 March. And there there is still a lot going on. But the point is that you have to be able to gather all the information you need to vote," he said to the broadcaster.
"So if you really want to conduct that discussion purely, you shouldn't be talking about March 15 and 16, then you should be talking about March 10 to 17. But then all the media must also stop all new information that is going to affect voters. This applies to conversations with party leaders in talk shows, newspaper articles and interviews," Kanne said.
Minister Kasja Ollongren of Home Affairs already spoke to media organizations and opinion pollers and they agreed that no exit polls will be published on the early election days, but regular polls are allowed.